Don sunk his life savings into his business. He sacrificed time with his family so it would succeed. He ignored all the other opportunities that came his way. Now, instead of retirement, he faces bankruptcy.
He confesses this to his son John: "God, I wasted so much on that stupid business. And now I’m probably going to lose it all and it’s...terrifying."
John tries to encourage him, "It’s not over yet. You’re not going to lose it all."
"No, it’s terrifying to realize this late..."
"What really matters."
"We still have time."
I still recall this scene from The Hollars, one year after seeing the movie. I can't tell you much else about the movie, but this scene made an impression. I suppose it's because it lifts up that old existential question about second chances. Is there still time? Can you save yourself from a mistake forty years in the making? Is a missed opportunity just that: gone...abandoned to an unforgiving past?
"This is how it comes to pass that one morning you open up the newspaper and discover that somebody else has written your book, or directed your play, or released your record, or produced your movie, or founded your business, or launched your restaurant, or patented your invention..." writes Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. Because somewhere along the way you missed an opportunity that came in the form of an idea, an inspiration, an invitation. It tapped you on the shoulder and you said, either deliberately or blindly, "No, thanks," and walked on.
Maybe you weren't, as Gilbert suggest, "ready enough, or fast enough, or openly enough for the idea to take hold within you and complete itself. Therefore, the idea went hunting for a new partner, and somebody else got to make the thing." Gilbert has a way of making this loss OK in the end, even offering that it's part of the magic of creativity. But I must confess, Gilbert's version of the universe leaves me unsettled. In her version there is no time for second chances. There's barely enough time for first chances, as divine inspiration impatiently swoops in and swoops out before we've even had time to finish our morning cup of coffee.
I have found the opposite to be true. Divine inspiration bears with us no matter how resistant or ready we may be. She will pursue us for as long as it takes. Two years may pass, and we've forgotten all about it, when She returns with an invitation. This happened to me recently. An idea I thought was dead and gone reappeared. Divine inspiration came a knockin', inviting me try to again. So I did, and the door was opened unto me.
I do believe in second chances. I believe in an infinite number of chances. Divine inspiration never tires of us. She comes when we are young, when we are old, and everywhere in between. She comes when we are eager and when we are tired. When all has gone well, and when we've wasted all of our time and money on the wrong things. She comes until we finally say, "Yes."